|The Apostle Paul|
Rembrandt van Rijn, 1657
National Gallery of Art
“didn’t pray for in his letters: people with cancer, busy schedules, promotions at work, successful ventures, hard pressed finances, strained relationships...Not that those things don’t matter, or that we shouldn’t pray for them, or that God doesn’t care about the minutiae of our lives, but they weren’t on the apostles regular prayer card.”
She says she now ends each prayer with “God make it count.”
That got me thinking: What was on Paul's prayer card?
This week, the Daily Office lectionary brings us Paul's Letter to the Colossians, and it is right there in the first few verses. It's my new favorite letter from Paul. He prays that his listeners will “be filled with”...
• Knowledge of God's will and “all spiritual wisdom” (discernment)
• Lead worthy lives
• Bear fruit in good work
• Joyful thanks
I think that an amazing list. Notice that in none of this does Paul offer advice to God. His prayers are about discernment, living a good life, good works, being strong, patient and enduring all that comes our way. And he ends prayer hoping we will have thanks – joyful thanks.
Note that first on the list is discernment. I often struggle with this – how do I really know God's will that I can lead a worthy life and do every good work? How do absorb spiritual wisdom? It takes prayer, study, conversation with others, and time. I take heart that Paul struggled with this too – it was highest on his list for his prayers. Make it count.
Here is Paul's prayer from Colossians 1:1-14:
“We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.”